Tuesday, July 12, 2011

ANC should heed the country's discontent

On May 10 1992, the Sunday Times published a photograph on its front page under the headline "Toilet town: a famous landmark of Nationalist misrule".

On July 11 2011, The Times published a front-page photograph with the headline "Another bum deal for the poor".

Almost two decades apart, both stories are - on the surface - about the construction of toilets for South Africa's poor.

Then, it was the National Party providing toilets in "development" areas for black South Africans.

Now, it is the ANC government constructing toilets in far-flung places for black South Africans.

Two governments, at opposite ends of the ideological and political spectrum, with one thing in common: an innate disrespect for poor, black and marginalised South Africans.

The ANC and its senior leadership at times appear bewildered when the "masses" rise up against them, as if they cannot comprehend what they see before them.
Then they appeal for calm, reassuring those who cannot wait that their turn at the delivery trough - albeit a pauper's trough - will come.

They send the ANC Youth League's Julius Malema and the party's Tony Yengeni to line up bricks and mortar to cover toilets in Viljoenskroon - a symbolic sealant on the wounds of the dispossessed.

But, it is simple really. There is an enormous distance between the disingenuous art of politics and the evidence of real delivery.

And it is this disrespect and neglect that lie at the heart of the violent anger that finds expression in the burning of toilets, the attack on an ANC councillor and her two innocent children and the barricading of streets that results in the death of a decent man from Ficksburg.

It is the possession of nothing, the lack of everything and the stillborn promises that accompanied the ANC's triumphant arrival at the Union Buildings in 1994.

The poor can only watch haplessly as the supersonic empowerment train zips right past their stop, disrespectful of their need, too, to get somewhere.

And their needs are relatively basic - a house, a job, a decent education, a place in which to raise children safely.

They are the 50% who live in poverty and the nearly 50% who will never find a job.

And so - from the Union Buildings to Luthuli House - let us not wonder what ignites the rage of the powerless. It is simply the unforgiving continuity between the past and the present.


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